Section 8 renters living in apartments of two or more bedrooms will apparently escape the rent hike anticipated on March 1, according to city manager Phil Kamlarz. But those living in studio and one-bedroom apartments may be paying an additional $35 to $45 each month for rent.
The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department subsidizes Section 8 rents, generally providing two-thirds of an individual’s market-rate rent, with the individual paying one-third.
The City Council, sitting as the Berkeley Housing Authority, will hear an oral report on Section 8 rents at 6 p.m. tonight (Tuesday).
The Housing Authority meeting will be preceded by the mayor’s State of the City address at 5 p.m. and the regular council meeting at 7 p.m.
HUD has apparently said that it will not continue to subsidize full Berkeley rents, which are higher than the area median for renters of studio and one-bedroom apartments.
“Any increase is an unacceptable burden to Section 8 renters,” said Marcia Levenson, a housing activist and Section 8 renter.
The Planet learned little on Friday of the details of the changes; Housing Director Steve Barton was not in the office and Berkeley Housing Authority Manager Tia Ingram did not respond to calls. City Manager Phil Kamlarz responded to questions with a brief voice mail, but could not be reached personally. Monday was a city holiday.
City Aims at Fair Salary Schedule
Because Land-Use Planning Manager Mark Rhoades’ monthly earnings are $10,581 ($126,972 annually) and Building and Safety Manager Joan MacQuarrie’s are the same, a personnel problem came to the fore: Wendy Cosin, MacQuarrie and Rhoades’ boss, earns just $10,250 per month, less than her two subordinates.
“The deputy director of planning has not received equity increases during [the time that those she supervises received raises]; therefore the building and safety manager and the land use planning manager five-step salary ranges are now 3.2 percent above the deputy director of planning deep salary range,” writes Human Resources Director David Hodgkins in a Feb. 13 report to the City Council.
The Personnel Board and Hodgkins, however, have crafted a solution: “Based on internal alignment, overall fairness and equity, it is reasonable to increase the salary range for the deputy director of planning as a result of the equity increases received by the Public Employee Union Local One classes that are now compensated at a higher rate.”
The Personnel Board and Hodgkins recommend that Cosin get a 10.6 percent raise effective Feb. 25, bringing her salary to $11,338 per month or $136,056 per year.
The council will be asked to approve the salary hike at tonight’s meeting.
A quick glance at city salaries, available on the web at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/hr/Salaries/SalaryListPage(a).asp, indicates that there are some 105 city staff members who earn $100,000 or more—slightly less if they’re not at the top of their salary range. A few of the 105 positions are not filled at this time and actual earnings may be less for some who take all or part of the 12 voluntary salary-savings days off, and actual earnings are likely to be higher for police and fire overtime. And add 50 percent in benefits to city salaries.
The city’s top earners include:
• City Manager Phil Kamlarz: $198,060
• City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque: $178,068
• Police chief: $141,324 – $194,208
• Fire chief: $135,708 – $186,504
• Deputy fire chief: $135,708 - $164,652
• Deputy city manager: $132,042 - $178,068
• Director of Health and Human Services: $125,612 – $174,108
• Directors of housing, information technology, library services, and planning: $126,612 - $166,992
• Directors of Parks and Recreation and Public Works: $126,612 - $174,108
While Berkeley’s revenue is up from last year at this time, staff predicts, in a Feb. 13 report, that, over the long term, the income will not meet the dollar-hungry city appetite.
Still, in the short term, if the City Council gives the green light to the plan it will discuss tonight and vote on Feb. 27, more-than-expected funds could keep fire stations open, improve Telegraph Avenue, pay for a local plan to address global warming and more.
The city’s year-end revenue is expected to be $3.3 million more than originally estimated, with interest income and parking fines both bringing in more-than-anticipated funds.
The city manager has recommended:
• $1 million to restore Fire Department overtime, which will eliminate rotating fire station closures;
• $200,000 to continue police patrol and mental health service outreach in the Telegraph Avenue area;
• $100,000 for a nonprofit, Sustainable Berkeley, to write a local plan for Greenhouse Gas emission reductions
• $500,000 for economic development, including setting up Business Improvement Districts in south and west Berkeley, developing a system to track city-wide economic development data, loan funds and matching funds for a Brownsfields grant;
• $200,000 to update the fire and police records system
• $1.3 million for infrastructure maintenance.
Commenting on the Telegraph area expenditures, Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the funding should be a permanent part of the budget. “I don’t think Telegraph should have to come to the council every six months,” he said. “Clearly this is a major shopping district.”
Worthington said he fears, as in the past, that once the problems on Telegraph subside, the funding for police and mental health services will be withdrawn.
In his report, the city manager wrote that he has long-term concerns for budgeting city services, including park maintenance, keeping up an aging infrastructure, and implementing the voter-approved greenhouse gas reduction. “Skyrocketing health costs and the pressure for salary increases further strains our ability to control costs,” the manager wrote.
While hundreds of cities all over the country have passed resolutions calling on the president and congress to end the war in Iraq, the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission has recommended that the city pass a fourth such ordinance, but is updating it with specific demands to support some of the stronger legislation introduced to Congress:
• H.R. 508 authored by Reps Barbara Lee (D-Oakland-Berkeley), Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma), and Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), which requires the United States’ forces to leave Iraq within six months;
• H.R. 413, authored by Rep. Sam Farr, (D-Monterey), which repeals the authorization for the use of military force against Iraq;
• H.R. 448, authored by Sens. Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), which prohibits the use of funds to continue deployment of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq beyond six months from the date the act is enacted.
The city council will also consider
• The designation of Feb. 28 as Ardella Carter Day to honor her on her 100th birthday.
• Acknowledging that the referendum petition against the Landmark’s Preservation Ordinance 6,958-N.S. referendum petition has the required number of valid signatures and that either the ordinance will be repealed or that it will be submitted to the citizens in a special election or the next regularly scheduled election.
The meetings are at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and are broadcast on cable Channel 33 and KPFB, 89.3-FM.